TOMMY, ZEPHYR, AND I
by John Tesar, Bolin Lyricist
Tommy Bolin pushed open the door to Jamie Kibbon’s apartment at the University Of South Dakota and announced to several of us that he had just spent 3 days teaching himself to play the organ. Jamie toured part-time with The Seven Sons, and would want to know-I guess. Tommy proceeded to sit down at Jamie’s Hammond B3 Leslie combo to show us what he had learned. He didn’t say much, he didn’t have too. Wow. Jamie had previously introduced us and had raved about his guitar prowess. He was suitably impressed at what Tommy had learned.
Then, Jamie told Tommy that I wrote lyrics, and Tommy said he needed a lyricist. Tommy revealed that he was leaving Sioux City and moving to Denver. I was surprised because I was transferring the next fall to the University of Colorado at Boulder. It was late 1966. We exchanged phone numbers, I didn’t think to much about it, after all Tommy was only 15! In early June, 1967, I received a letter from Tommy saying he was in Denver, and wanted some lyrics. It was the summer of Sergeant Peppers. The Family Dog in Denver was showcasing the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. It was hard to study. Tommy had a band called American Standard. They were opening at the Dog. It was awesome. I put my real life on hold, and started writing seriously that fall. Tommy said give me verses, bridges, and choruses, and “don’t tell me what it should sound like.”
Boulder and Denver were middle Amercia’s answer to San Francisco, and everything was changing. The incredible bands of that era had a huge impact on everybody. But Boulder needed it’s own. We were going to get it and it wasn’t going to be a copy band. It would be Zephyr. Tommy and John Faris had moved from Denver to Boulder. Kit Thomas helped hook them up with David and Candy Givens.
It was the summer of ’68. A hot time. The summer of love was a memory. ’68 brought us the Democratic Convention riots from Chicago. Vietnam was heating up. On the coasts, the freaks were getting paranoid. For good reason, Boulder was special. There was a feeling of being drawn into the center of the times, but also being protected from it. Tommy introduced me to David and Candy, and it was clear that this would click. I was impressed with David’s sense of purpose. He was very much the business head of the band, and designed the group as a vehicle for Candy as a female among equals. Both Candy and Tommy dueled for the crowd’s attention, and it gave the group a powerful tension that they knew how to use it to their advantage.
Personally, I felt much more of an outsider with Zephyr than I had at earlier times, until Candy started singing things Tommy and I had written. She was the sort of individual who could walk into a room and take charge. No surprise she was the lead singer, She had a gracious as well as a wild side
Tommy was much more reserved until he picked up the guitar. Then he was a monster. Does anyone remember the incredible set Zephyr did at the 1969 Denver Pop Festival? “Cross The River” complete with tear gas and Purple Haze.
We all wish things had worked out differently for Zephyr. I look forward to hearing this music as much as I hope you do. I’d like to go back to Boulder for the good times.